Cyrus called for an assembly of all the Persians, and although he had no official standing of any kind, they flocked to his banner.  Once they were all together, he unfurled a freshly-forged writ and read off of it that Astyages had appointed him Head Persian in Charge.  “Now everybody mow my lawn!”

Herodotus takes a moment here to explain that Cyrus’s lawn was overgrown with thorns, extending some eighteen or twenty furlongs in each direction.  So that’s a lot to mow!  Herodotus also wants to explain that when he says ‘Persians’ he means just the main tribes, the Pasargadai, the Maraphians, and the Maspians.  The other Persian tribes, of which he rattles off a list of seven, were of no account.

The Persians mowed Cyrus’s lawn in a single day!  Then the next morning everyone got together, freshly showered, and enjoyed a feast on the newly-mowed lawn, Cyrus’s treat.

“Pretty nice spread, boss,” said the Persians.  “You’ve got wine and goat and mutton and beef and other provisions of the most agreeable kind.  Really nice picnic.”

“Which did you prefer, the picnic or the day of backbreaking labor?” asked Cyrus.

“Is this a trick question?”

It was!  Cyrus proceeded to lay bare his whole design. “Let’s rebel!  If we rebel, then it’s picnics all day every day!  If we don’t, then you’ll have to mow so many lawns!”

The Persians readily agreed to revolt, partly because of Cyrus’s picnic gambit and partly because they all hated Astyages and had been waiting for an excuse to revolt for years.

Astyages soon heard about this, and sent a messenger summoning Cyrus to court to explain himself.  The messenger came back empty-handed; Cyrus had told him that he’d be right there, he just needed to finish equipping his army first.  Panicked, Astyages mobilized his own army, and put his old lickspittle Harpagos in charge.  This was of course just what Harpagos wanted; he collected all the Medes’ spears and armor and passed out cream pies and iPhones instead.  When the Persians marched in, the Medes offered them pie and apps.  Astyages tried to draft a last-minute replacement army of youths and old men, but it didn’t work out.  Next thing you knew, Cyrus was in charge, Astyages was imprisoned, and Harpagos was outside Astyages’s prison cell, doing a little dance and gloating.


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Primary Sources: Herodotus, CLIO part 18 — No Comments

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